Got blog?

I have a fairly empty right column on my blog. It's sad and lonely, in a bloggy sort of way. It wants you. [your blog link actually]

If you attend Grace Church and you have a blog, comment with your link so I can fill up this void.


Money and Love

Money and Love are hardly used in the same sentence... unless it's a joke.

But Paul writes in 2 Corinthians that the way Christians use their money is a test of the sincerity of their love.

In a money-obsessed, success-driven Silicon Valley culture, we can see how intense money is to human behavior. I experienced the same kind of intensity in my previous career as a Wall Street investment banker/vc.

Instead, Christians can know just how radical and refreshing a gospel centered life can be. It is freedom to say to a money-drunk heart: "I can live without you." And mean it. Because you have something better, something of infinite value and glory: union with Jesus Christ.

If you want to slowly, but surely, see money's stranglehold on your heart be released, then I recommend this study guide. Prayerfully go over it yourself or discuss it with a Community Group or friend.

Discussion: how central is money to the Silicon Valley life?


Evangelism Dos and Don'ts

Sharing the message of the Gospel is a thrilling adventure. Having people in Silicon Valley think you're off your rocker is terrifying.

Share your Silicon Valley evangelism Dos and Don'ts.
Here's a few to get started...

DON'T whip out a little booklet called "Five Steps to Being Saved"
DO create genuine, caring friendships

DON'T ask your boss at lunch, "Are you washed by the blood of Jesus?"
DO explain how a Christian approach to a problem is sensible and compassionate

DON'T freak out if someone demands that you explain why God allows evil
DO ask good questions and find out what the person's question really is

DON'T think a big fish swallowing a "Darwin" fish on your bumper counts as witnessing
DO engage in thoughtful, challenging discussions in a caring manner

Ladies and Gentlemen, post your Dos and Don'ts...


Freaky Gifts

You can't help noticing in 1Corinthians 12 that Paul lists several spiritual gifts that are freaky (= 'strange and maybe a little frightening'). These are the controversial spiritual gifts, especially in a rational place like Silicon Valley.

Tongues, prophecy, healings, oh my! What's a Presbyterian to do?

I didn't have enough time to discuss them with any significant depth in my sermon yesterday. Just a passing reference, which isn't enough to explore the genuine disagreements that Christians have over these gifts and their potential use today.

If you want more information, I recommend a Vern Poythress (Westminster Seminary) article. It is the best, most fair, most deeply analytical and yet most compact article on the subject. However, it's not for the theologically faint of heart; you may find some it tough going. Modern Spiritual Gifts as Analogous to Apostolic Gifts. How's that for a title?

Discuss: Controversy is a great way to get lively blog discussions going. However, if you have major disagreements or questions after reading Poythress' article, feel free to email me directly. In the meantime, this is an intriguing topic for live conversation.

Peeking Under the Tree

Finding your spiritual gifts is a little like peeking at the gifts under the Christmas tree. The gifts are already there, waiting to be used. They've been purchased, wrapped and lovingly given.

But all of the gifts are for the sake of others. They aren't toys or facial creams or the latest hot band's CD. They are gifts to serve with, gifts that still belong to the Giver and who will use them for his best purposes.

Want to learn more? Download this great article on Spiritual Gifts.

Discuss: what excites you about knowing your spiritual gifts?

Sermons: Gifts of the Spirit, Gifts of the Spirit 2.


Gifts for Ministry

Last Sunday, I taught about Spiritual Gifts and their use in the church. As Christians in Silicon Valley, which is so driven by talent/aggressiveness/tenacity, it's an encouragement to know that God gives his people (no matter who they are) the equipping they need to serve him.
We long to be a church where every member is fully using his or her gifts to be agents of the gospel in Silicon Valley. I gave eight facts about spiritual gifts that are important to consider our of 1Corinthians 12. In case you couldn't write fast enough, here are the summary eight facts.

  1. Spiritual Gifts belong to JESUS and his church, not to individuals. It’s the entire “body” (using Paul’s language) working together that operates as Christ’s physical expression. Jesus himself had ALL of the gifts. The church (broadly and historically) has that fullness of gifting by analogy… but each individual part is just a piece.
  2. Gifts are different than natural talents. Talents come from God's common grace -- Distributed broadly, even outside the Christian community for transforming culture (vs.) the Holy Spirit's special gifting of grace -- transforming the world through the church.
  3. Gifts are different than spiritual fruit. Fruit is character (all of them growing in all Christians) (vs.) different gifts for each person. A person with a gift of wisdom may be still immature in their compassion and patience.
  4. Gifts are different than our walk with God. A variety given to all Christians, sometimes in spite of our weaknesses. Not something that we “have” innately, but an application of salvation, it’s the super-abundance of God’s grace. Gifts can operate a bit even without growth in maturity. That could be dangerous, often is a cover-up for a declining Christian life.
  5. Gifts don’t negate Christian duties. For example, the gift of celibacy: life-long gift of a few (Paul for example). A duty of every unmarried Christian, however, as long as they are in that state.
  6. Gifts are found in clusters. Combinations of gifts affect the person’s use of them. Pastor-teacher, Preacher-teacher, Preacher-Leader, Wisdom-teacher, Pastor-encourager. ALL might end up as an ordained minister, but they would have very different kinds of ministries and churches.
  7. Gifts can work through weakness. Because they are the SPIRIT’s gift, they can go around someone’s weaknesses. Example: Charles Spurgeon, arguably the greatest 19th century preacher was converted by an untrained deacon.
  8. KEY: Gifts must have a Gospel oriented impact. They bear growth and change in other people in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit works his relational truth through people’s gifts.
    VERSE 3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus is accursed"; and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit. The key evaluative question, according to this passage, is: “is Jesus exalted?” by this service?
    Remember, the Holy Spirit is truth oriented. His gifts bring the greater truth about Jesus and the redeeming of the world into the existing world.

DISCUSS: Do you have a story of God working through you despite your natural weakness? Do you have questions about what your spiritual gifts might be? Respond! Also, this coming Sunday, we'll look at how to discover your spiritual gifts for use in ministry.


Gospel Centrality

I'm convinced that the core of Christianity, indeed the core of reality, is the gospel.
How? The gospel is so much more than "if I believe in Jesus, I get to go to heaven."
The gospel is literally good news and that phrase is a summary of four overlapping mega-thoughts in the Bible.

1. God accomplishing his plan to redeem the world
2. Jesus exchanging his life/death/resurrection for his people
3. Union with Jesus and all of the benefits of that union
4. New life/ new creation in Jesus

Those are all huge concepts, gigantic truths that touch on powerful actions of God. 1 Peter says that even eternal creatures cannot tire of looking at this.

So why do we get tired of it? Why do we as humans, even the people who benefit from this, forget the gospel? Our nature seems semi-allergic to the gospel. We get some deep appreciation for it and then we throw it off, only to need it given to us all over again.

DISCUSS: What's your take? Why is this good news so easy to forget??

Overflow of Grace. Barnacles of Junk.

If (1) Gospel Centrality is the core of what makes a church, then what flows out of that? How would a deep and explosive grasp of the gospel change other things?

2. Gospel Community. Union with Jesus in turn unites Christians into a new community.
3. Gospel Mission. The redemptive work of God continues to flow into the world.
4. Gospel Transformation. The really broken part of us is a failure to know and apply God's grace; fixing that is the first step toward fixing our lives.
5. Gospel Restoration. The redeeming work of God is not only bodiless souls, but he is making all things new as he cares for his whole creation., for justice and for the poor.
6. Gospel Calling. The daily work and creativity of God's people is retaken for the good of God's purposes in the world.

More detail Grace Church's core values.

These items aren't a summary of theology, or a list of activities that Christians ought to do. But they comprise the heart of what it means to be church. I'm convinced that our church needs to make sure that these core attributes are vitally experienced. Everything else is extraneous, perhaps even blocking, to the core.

How does a church prevent the free-flowing freedom of the gospel from getting stuck? Too often, the good news is poured into a bottle, capped off and tossed into the bottom of the lake. It grows crusty barnacles -- the junk that Christians busily scurry about doing instead of living off the gospel of grace.